Carolina kicks off '100 years' celebration
The celebration had two parts. First, Odom and former player John Roche spoke to the fans gathered in the Colonial Center foyer. After about 30 minutes with the fans, the dignitaries moved to the Frank McGuire Room so they could speak to the media. In attendance were BJ McKie, Kevin Joyce, and John Roche, owners of three of the five retired jerseys in Carolina history. Mrs. Grady Wallace represented her late husband, whose jersey was also retired. The only person not represented was Alex English, now an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors, who was on the West Coast.
Odom spoke to the fans for about fifteen minutes, introducing the former players in attendance and talking about what he hopes the celebration will mean to the Gamecock program.
"We are entering the 100th year of Gamecock basketball, and that is a cause for celebration," Odom said. "South Carolina as a state is a very special basketball state."
Odom introduced Roche, who spoke for about five minutes to represent the retired jerseys. Roche, who was the only player to receive a round of applause when he entered the Colonial Center before the ceremony, talked about his long awaited return to Columbia.
"I do not get the opportunity to return to South Carolina very often," Roche said. "I notice many of you still speak with that funny accent."
Roche spoke about the fan support he received during his playing days, and implored the fans to continue to support the team even during leaner times. "I encourage all of you to continue your support of the South Carolina basketball program. I am here on behalf of all the players to express our support for the current basketball administration."
Returning to the Frank McGuire Room, Odom spoke about his desire to bring former players closer to the current program. "I was struck by the separation that existed between the different generations of men's basketball players. One of my first objectives was to try to bring all of them back together. Everyone is always welcome at any basketball function."
Speaking after Odom, McKie and Joyce mentioned similar desires.
"Everybody's been in groups," McKie said. "I think it's time that stopped because all of us are family here. All of us respect each other, and all of us love each other. I just thank everybody for being here." Looking over to the chairs where the holders of the retired jerseys were seated, McKie added, "I'm kind of in awe right now with the legendary John Roche and Kevin Joyce [here]. I've seen different pictures of them playing, and it's finally good to see them back. Hopefully they come back a whole lot more."
"We have been in different pods, Joyce added. "It's important to bring everyone back as one."
The 100 Years of Basketball Celebration will be an ongoing one. At each home game during the upcoming season, former players will be honored as Gamecock greats. These players will be honored during the game and sign autographs at halftime. There will be commemorative posters and basketballs available to be signed. Fans will also have the chance to vote on All-Decade and All-Century Teams to honor the best players in Gamecock history.
The celebration will culminate the weekend of February 22-23. The weekend will begin with a private players' social on Friday. The players will participate in an Alumni Game Saturday morning prior to the game against Mississippi State and then be honored during the game, before having a private dinner that evening.
Stay tuned to GamecockAnthem.com for continuing coverage of this historic celebration of Gamecock basketball's 100 year anniversary.
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